(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is coverage of the first day of a jury trial. The suspect is considered innocent until proved guilty in a court of law. The is a vehicular homicide case in which one of the occupants of the car died. There may be testimony, quotes, references or other information related to the fatality that may be distressing to some readers. Additionally, there may be some language used that is imperative to the accurate telling of this case that may be offensive to some readers.)
POMEROY, Ohio – The jury returned a verdict of guilty in two day a vehicular homicide trial.
The jury found Richard Barnhart, Jr., guilty on all charges.
He was found guilty on: count one of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a felony of the first degree; count two of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a felony of the second degree; third count of Vehicular Manslaughter, a first degree misdemeanor; counts four and five, both two counts of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence, both felonies of the fourth degree. The jury further found there was a specification on three of the charges that the defendant was under suspension at the time of committing the offenses.
Judge I. Carson Crow asked the foreperson if they had come to a verdict. The verdict was then announced on each count by Judge Crow. The jury was given the case to deliberate at p.m. and returned to the courtroom with the verdict at p.m.
As the verdict was read Barnhart held his head in his hands.
Bond was set for $50,000 plus GPS monitoring. Barnhart was remanded into custody until bond is posted or sentencing on Monday morning.
Richard Barnhart Jr., 31, of Pomeroy was on trial for the Jan. 13, 2017 crash of a black 1998 Audi sedan Barnhart and Jesse T. Carr, 26, also of Pomeroy, were traveling in State Route 143 in which Carr was killed. Neither were wearing seat belts. Barnhart had a .296 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The legal limit is .08.
Barnhart was represented by Charles Knight. The Meigs County Prosecutor, James Stanley, and Assistant Prosecutor, Jeff Adkins, represented the state.
The jury had been selected and testimony went through the day on Jan. 30, 2018 at the Meigs County Court of Common Pleas. Testimony included law enforcement, an analyst and Meigs County Coroner Dr. Daniel Whitely. The trial continued with testimony into the morning of Jan. 31. The second day of testimony for the state began with Lt. Jason McDaniel of the Rutland Fire Department taking the stand.
McDaniel testified under questioning by Stanley. McDaniel stated as others responding to the scene that Barnhart was found at the crash partially through the windshield of the black Audi over the steering wheel and his legs and feet in the driver’s seat. McDaniel also testified he heard Barnhart make a statement that McDaniel took to mean Barnhart was the driver and responsible for the crash. Barnhart reportedly said, “I f***** up this time, didn’t I.”
On cross examination by Knight, McDaniel said there were no mechanical devices used to extricate Barnhart or Carr from the vehicle. Nothing had been cut or otherwise by first responders on the wrecked vehicle. He said Carr was outside the vehicle, under the passenger side. Barnhart was inside on the driver’s side but had been able to remove himself from the vehicle.
There was some question over wording from a report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol as to McDaniel’s statement. McDaniel clarified in court Barnhart was on the driver’s side with his body angled to the passenger side, and not that Barnhart was on the passenger side.
Brad Smith with the Rutland Fire Department was next to testify and he stated he had also heard Barnhart make the statement he had “f***** up” and Barnhart was on the driver’s side of the vehicle. Smith said Barnhart was “waist high in the windshield glass” over the steering wheel. Smith said he had helped Barnhart along with McDaniel to a Meigs EMS stretcher. Smith also said he was the one that had placed the white sheet over Carr’s body at the scene. He also assisted in moving the body from under the wreckage.
Under cross examination, Knight asked if Smith had seen Barnhart’s boots. Smith said he did not remember, he had just looked to see if Barnhart had been pinched in the wreck and needed to be extricated. Smith said he wasn’t looking for boots in that moment. Knight also asked if Barnhart appeared to be aggravated and Smith said he did not appear to be.
Also testifying for the state was Trooper Shawn Cunningham. Trooper Cunningham testified he had taken pictures of the scene during the day on Jan. 16, 2017 and of the wrecked car as well. Knight questioned Trooper Cunningham about a tennis shoe in the driver’s seat of one of the photos and photographing blood on the drivers side of the vehicle. Trooper Cunningham said he didn’t recall blood on the driver’s side window and that the picture of the tennis shoe in the seat was not taken by him. On redirect, Adkins asked if Trooper Cunningham had done any analysis of the crash scene, to which Cunningham indicted he did not have anything to do with that part of the investigation.
Trooper Christopher Finley testified to obtaining the blood sample which was used to determine Barnhart had a .269 BAC. He also testified to assisting with the investigation of the case.
The prosecution rested their case and the defense called Leslie Nicholson to the stand. She testified she knew both Carr and Barnhart. She said they came to her home in Albany while she was cooking dinner that night. Nicholson said Barnhart and Carr made plans with her to play cards at his place later that night. She placed the two at her home between 6-6:30 p.m. She said the two left in a black vehicle and that Carr was driving when the two left.
On cross examination by Adkins, she was asked about Derek Young being there as well and making an official statement the time was 5-5:30 p.m. She responded, “Mr. Young has no concept of time.”
The defense rested and the jury took a break for lunch returning about 1 p.m. to hear closing arguments.
Stanley delivered a sobering closing argument going over the state’s evidence that Barnhart was the driver and his actions were reckless resulting in the death of Carr. Stanley told the jury there was no doubt Barnhart was the driver due to his placement being “draped over the steering wheel” as Lt. Jason McDaniel with the Rutland Fire Department had testified the day before. He went on to review the evidence and the charges referring back to the statement Barnhart had made when an EMT asked him if he was the driver and Barnhart responded, “I f***** up, didn’t I.”
The statement was referenced repeatedly along with the three people’s testimony that they heard Barnhart say it and all three believed he was the driver of the vehicle.
Knight began his closing argument by reviewing the evidence in chronological order. Knight told the jury there were only two things they had to consider, if Barnhart was driving the car and whoever the driver was, did the crash cause the death of Jesse Carr. Knight questioned the investigation for the officers not testing blood on the air bag and not going after the dark SUV. He said law enforcement stopped doing their job once they found Barnhart had prior convictions for OVI.
In his rebuttal statement to the jury, Stanley flatly stated law enforcement had done the job. He said chasing after a SUV three hours after the fact was pointless. Nothing was showing there was contact with the SUV or that the vehicle even knew the vehicle with Barnhart and Carr in it even crashed. Stanley also said the blood on the air bag was Barnhart’s because that is where Barnhart was. Carr had also died right away, the coroner had testified there was little to no blood found from Carr.
As he wrapped up the rebuttal, Stanley showed a picture of the driver’s side of the car. It was basically untouched. The passenger side, however, was barely recognizable as a car. He said, “One person lived. One person died,” as he showed both sides of the car. He said Barnhart refused to accept responsibility except for that moment when he said, “I f***** up.”
Every time the photo was on screen showing Carr’s body under partially under the passenger side of the vehicle, the defendant looked down or used his hands to shield his eyes from seeing the image.
The jury was given final instructions following the statements and went to deliberate the verdict at 3:52 p.m.